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Opinion |

Latin America and The Caribbean and Beyond 2015: Pending challenge or missed opportunity?

viviane castro by Viviane Castro

Regional Coordinator LAC Beyond 2015

The momentum generated by the Beyond 2015 process may represent, for the United Nations and the governments involved in it, either a challenge to attend to the urgency and commitment of the voices arising from Latin American civil society organizations, or a new missed opportunity by the international system for deepening democracy in the global conversation.

Since the Rio +20 Summit conference held in Brazil in June 2012, United Nations and civil society organizations, along with a number of national governments of different regions, have been strongly promoting the discussion of a development agenda for post 2015, which as we know, is the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by the international community in 2000.

It is a complex process that follows multiple paths: thematic sectoral, and national consultations, called by a variety of actors, which should converge in a series of recommendations made by the UN-appointed High Level Panel (HLP) to the UN Secretary General, who will in turn submit them to the consideration of the UN General Assembly in September 2013. The HLP has four representatives from the Latin America and Caribbean region: the environment minister of Brazil, Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Maria Angela Holguin, the president of the Cuban Environment Agency, Gisela Alonso, and former foreign minister of Mexico, Patricia Espinosa.

Considering the tight deadline, if we observe the slowness and low profile that our region has joined this process and the lack of information and public debate that has taken place in most countries, with few exceptions, we would have to conclude that governments in the region once again are not giving sufficient political priority to this global agenda.

The civil society organizations grouped in MESA, the Latin American Coordination of National NGO Platforms and Regional Networks, in partnership with the Global Call Against Poverty (GCAP) and other international partners, have responded to the call by the Beyond 2015 global campaign to lead the process of national consultations in eight countries in the region (see http://www.ong-ngo.org/en/beyond-2015-campaign-consultation-in-8-latin-america-countries/), and we are now actively engaged in it.

However, beyond what can be achieved during this short period of consultation, which also is limited by financial constraints, Latin American civil society has a great political and social acquis to contribute to the global discussions on the post-2015. For many years, our organizations have studied, dimensioned. and diagnosed poverty, inequality, and the environmental and structural problems of our societies. We have also developed proposals and recommendations, and made numerous interventions. We have worked hand in hand with social movements and have embraced many of their causes.

The roots of these problems are clear to us, and what we know we do not want: We do not want unequal, unfair societies, where the majority does not have equal access to health, education, social security, and basic services; nor economies based on the extraction of natural resources with economic benefits for the very few, and environmental and social damage for the majority, and mainly driven by energy generated by burning fossil fuels; nor do we want discriminatory societies that marginalize people because of their gender, ethnicity, religious belief, disability, or sexual orientation; nor a limited or ‘protected’ democracy, where citizen participation is the exception and not the rule, nor do we want authoritarian, repressive and corrupt governments, nor a society where information is not transparent and easily accessible to the public.

But unlike the youths of May 68, who proclaimed that they knew what they did not want, but did not know what they wanted, we Latin American CSOs do know what we want: We want participatory and transparent democracies; social security and access to health, education and basic services as rights; democracies that are inclusive and respectful of differences; and an equitable, socially just, and environmentally sustainable economic development.

In recent years, some degree of consensus has been reached within Latin American civil society that such a socially just and environmentally sustainable development for our region will not be possible within the current model, based primarily on natural resource extraction. However, agreeing on a way to go about an alternative development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the form(s) it would take, is a bone much harder to crack.

Diagnoses have been made, causes analyzed, and the vision raised, and yet there is much less consensus on the way forward to achieve the above objectives, or on the specific form that the result would have. The range of proposals in this regard is almost as diverse as our countries, organizations, and social and political movements. It goes from proposals based on local development and self-sustainability, to radical changes in the economic and political institutions at the country level.

The deadline to make recommendations on a post-2015 development framework is very short. We will strive and demand that Latin American voices are adequately represented and heard in this process. But the discussion should not end there. In this sense, the momentum generated by the Beyond 2015 process may represent, for the United Nations and the governments involved in it, either a challenge to atternd to the urgency and commitment of the voices arising from Latin American civil society organizations, or a new missed opportunity by the international system for deepening democracy in the global conversation.